Officials from China and India began discussions on Tuesday to find ways to resolve a longstanding border dispute against the backdrop of recent flare-ups of tension between the two Asian giants over their de facto boundary in the Himalayas.
Top military and foreign ministry officials were expected to exchange drafts of a border defence cooperation agreement being sought to better manage the two countries’ contentious views over the demarcation of each other’s territory.
India is expected to raise its concerns about incursions by Chinese troops into Indian territory, divided by the Line of Actual Control that serves as an informal border, said an official speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media.
In April, the two countries were caught in a three-week stand-off when Chinese soldiers intruded deep inside Indian boundary. Indian officials have reported several minor incursions since then, including three in the past week, when Chinese troops entered the Indian side in the Leh region of northern India adjacent to southwestern China.
India and China have held more than a dozen rounds of talks to resolve their border dispute, without making much progress.
China claims around 90,000 square kilometres of land in India’s northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, while India says China is occupying 38,000 square kilometres of territory in the Aksai Chin plateau in the western Himalayas.
China is a longtime ally and weapons supplier to Pakistan, India’s bitter rival. The presence in India of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the self-declared Tibetan government-in-exile also remain a source of tension between New Delhi and Beijing. China is also suspicious of New Delhi’s growing ties with the United States.
Despite the territorial tensions, trade between India and China has soared, with China becoming India’s biggest trading partner. Two-way trade jumped from US$5 billion in 2002 to nearly US$75 billion in 2011, but declined slightly last year because of the global economic downturn. Trade remains heavily skewed in China’s favour, another source of worry for India.